Samkova last woman standing amid snowboard cross carnage
Eva Samkova took the gold medal in a drama-filled women's snowboard cross competition in Sochi.
The Czech held off snowboard cross superstar Dominique Maltais to claim first place in a competition which saw many of the main contenders go out in icy conditions on a very difficult course that saw one competitor end up with concussion and another sustain an anterior cruciate ligament injury.
Samkova avoided the rough and tumble of the pack by leading from the front all day to claim the women's snowboarding cross gold medal at the Sochi
The 20-year-old, sporting a fake moustache in Czech colours on her top lip for good luck, dominated all three of her races on the Extreme Park course and crossed the line well clear in the final.
Canada's Maltais's silver is added to the bronze she won in Turin eight years ago, while French teenager Chloe Trespeuch won the bronze after overhauling Bulgarian Alexandra Jekova over the last couple of hundred metres.
Defending women's Olympic snowboard cross champion Maelle Ricker was just one of the big names who crashed out in the heats of the event on an accident-filled day in Sochi. France's Charlotte Bankes looked set to win that heat as she was out in front, but crashed badly and appeared to have lost consciousness as just three of the six riders managed to finish.
America's Lidnsey Jacobellis - who famously blew a certain gold medal at Turin in 2006 when falling after a celebratory trick over the final jump - once again tasted Olympic heartbreak as she crashed out of her semi-final while leading comfortably. She returned to her feet to finish the semi-final, but was too far back to catch the leaders and claimed seventh place in tournament.
Britain's Zoe Gillings finished fourth in her semi-final after missing out in an astonishingly close photo finish which saw her and an Italian rival both fall over the line. Gillings went on to claim ninth place.
Probelems at Extreme Park started early on as two of the first six riders in Sunday's opening snowboard cross seeding run fell heavily and were taken away on stretchers, a day after Russian freestyle skiier Maria Komissarova was seriously injured on the same course.
Komissarova underwent more than six hours of spinal surgery at Krasnaya Polyana Hospital Number 8 on Saturday after breaking her back in a crash during training for the women's ski cross at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.
The course for the snowboarding event has some different sections but many of the same jumps, twists and turns.
Norwegian Helene Olafsen (pictured below) was the first rider out and after one jump turned 180 degrees before landing on her back and shoulder.
There was a lengthy delay as she was attended to on the course but she appeared to be conscious as she was stretchered off the slope.
"Helene has torn the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee," Norway Olympic team doctor Ellen Moen said later. "She also has an injury to the ligament on the inside of the same knee, and a meniscus injury.
"She will most likely have to have an operation on the knee, but we cannot say anything more about it yet."
American Jacqueline Hernandez, who went out sixth, was the second faller, hitting the slope with a thud as she tried to land backwards and appearing to lose consciousness as she smashed her head into the snow.
Again there was a delay as she received medical treatment but she had also recovered consciousness before she was taken away on the stretcher.
The U.S. team later said Hernandez had been treated in the medical tent where they ascertained she had suffered a concussion. She was withdrawn from the competition..
The International Olympic Committee said the courses had been approved by the federations, who are responsible for their respective fields of play.
"I know they are very happy with it," IOC spokesman Mark Adams told reporters.
He said he had just been informed of the two incidents in the snowboarding competition but said there was "no huge cause for concern," and they were unrelated to the Komissarova accident.
"The accident was in an individual practice. She (Komissarova) was actually in training by herself when the accident happened. So it is not actually the format or the course that is necessarily the problem.
"They (courses) did not appear to have any difference from Vancouver (2010 Olympics). The athletes are happy with the course," he said.
Despite the two incidents, defending champion Maelle Ricker echoed Adams' view that there was nothing wrong with the course.
"It's actually just getting nicer and nicer throughout the day, getting softer and it's going be perfect for the afternoon," said the Canadian.
After a second seedings run completes the field of 24 qualifiers, the boarders will run in a series of four-women knockout races to decide the medals later on Sunday.